If you are going to Vietnam, then Hanoi is probably on your list. The city is over 1000 years old, rich in history, the capital of Vietnam and filled with tens, if not hundreds of things to do. Deciding what to do so you don’t miss out on anything, can be quite stressful. To make your decision easier, here are our top 10 things to do in Hanoi to make sure that you don’t miss out.
1. Take a day trip to Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is a must-visit when in Hanoi. This amazing place isn’t in Hanoi, its located 100 km outside of Hanoi and has some of the most spectacular landscapes in Asia. A one-day tour can cost between $42 to $48 per person depending on the tour you pick to do. Ninh Binh is extremely popular among tourist, so look around and pick the one that best suits your style and pocket. On our tour, we went to Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Mua cave and Trang An and enjoyed cycling through the mountains after an interesting buffet lunch.
Tip: Trang An is breath-taking, so try to book a tour that takes you past there. Also remember to pack an umbrella, sunscreen, and water when you take these tours in the summer as the sun can get deadly and carry it with you the whole time.
2. Go on a Ha Long Bay cruise
Ha Long Bay is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Vietnam and for a good reason. This amazing bay has 1969 islands and islets, which will take your breath away. You have the option of a one, two or three-day tour. A two or three-day tour means that you spend the nights on the boat and the days exploring the bay, which is extremely beautiful and peaceful. A one day tour cost around $52 and a two day or three days tour can cost anything from $180 to $300 depending on the cruise you pick as most of the overnight cruises are 5 stars.
Tip: If you don’t have the funds to stay a night or two, do the one day tour. The day tour is stunning, and you won’t be rushed. You will just miss out on the sunrise and the luxurious rooms, but all the activities will still be top-notch.
3. Take a stroll through the Old Quarter
The Old Quarter is the hub for tourism in Hanoi. With tree-lined roads, cafes, bars, coffee shops, markets, and beautiful architecture. This part of the city is one of the busiest parts, there are even some small streets that cars aren’t allowed to pass through, meaning the bars and restaurant have taken over the roads. This just adds to the crazy atmosphere of the place and its nightlife. With beer costing around 5000 dong ($0.21) the streets full up fast when the sun goes down. There are also many shops for you to go shopping for clothes, electronics, and souvenirs. With so many things to see, this is the perfect part of the city to explore.
4. Watch the World-Famous Water Puppet Show
Water puppetry is a tradition that comes from Northern Vietnam and dates back to the 11th century. The Thang Long Water Puppet show has performed all over the world and is one of the best water-puppet show that you can go to. The theatre is located in the Old Quarter, across the road from Ho Hoan Kiem Lake. The only downside to the show is that it’s mostly in Vietnamese, so it’s hard to follow the story, but it’s still really enjoyable to watch this traditional Vietnamese show. Ticket prices range from 100 000 to 200 000 Dong depending on where you want to sit. If you buy a ticket for 150 000 Dong or more, you will receive a souvenir with your ticket.
5. Admire the massive Ceramic Mosaic Mural Street
If you are looking for something totally different and unique in Hanoi, head over to the ceramic mosaic mural. This mural was created to celebrate the cities 1000th birthday. You can walk along the pavement and admire this beautiful wall which runs for 6.5 km, making it the world’s largest ceramic mosaic according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The murals are based on different periods in Vietnams history. There aren’t many people that walk along this wall so you can stop anywhere to take some beautiful pictures.
6. Take in the beautiful St. Joseph’s Cathedral
The St. Joseph’s Cathedral opened in 1886 and is the oldest church in Hanoi. With its architectural style, it’s said to resemble the Notre Dame de Paris. This Cathedral is a beautiful old building which is a must-see and so easy to get to. Its located in the Old Quarter, close to Ho Hoan Kiem Lake.
7. Learn some history at Hoa Lo Prison Memorial
Vietnam has a very rich history, where the French and Americans played a huge role. This Memorial is at Hoa La prison where people were held prisoners from around 1901. The prison has been maintained well, and you can see first-hand the living conditions, prisoners’ cells, relics and the terrible things they had to endure. It costs 30 000 Dong pp. to enter. Once inside, you can get an audio guide for 50 000 Dong each. We highly recommend that you get the audio guide as this will give you a lot of information about what you are looking at as well as some prisoners’ testimonials and events that happened. It’s eye-opening and fascinating and will take around 2 hours to walk from the beginning until the end.
8. Pose for some creative pictures at the Street Murals
Situated on Phung Hung street, there are many murals painted on the wall which show old memories of Hanoi such as the Mid-Autumn festival, Trang Tien Department store and an old street corner. These murals bring back old memories for many locals, and it’s interesting to see how things looked back then. As for the art, it’s brilliantly done and look so life-like. These murals aren’t on many peoples lists of things to do and is a bit of a hidden gem, but it’s a perfect place to take some beautiful and creative pictures.
9. Take a walk around Ho Hoan Kiem Lake
Ho Hoan Kiem Lake is located in the Old Quarter and is a very popular place to sit and relax. It’s a beautiful lake in the middle of the city, and there’s a small island that has a temple on it called Jade Mountain which you can get to by crossing a bridge. Entry cost is around 15 000 Dong. There is also the Turtle Tower that you can only see from the land. There’s a walkway around the whole lake with many benches where you can sit and take in the beauty that’s all around you. There are many little gems all around the lake, and it’s a massive landmark in the area. At night, even more, people set up shops around the lake, and as the lights come on around the lake, the city comes alive, making it even more beautiful.
10. Have lunch at the Railway tracks
This is also an even lesser known spot in the city and we would have missed it if it wasn’t for some last-minute plans to see some friends. What makes these railway tracks so amazing is that the tracks run right through the city. Peoples shops, cafes and even barber shops are right next to the tracks, if not on the tracks. When the train comes through, everyone quickly moves off the tracks allowing the train to pass. So yes, you could be eating some delicious spring rolls and then be forced to move out of the way. It’s a really incredible thing to witness. This was never planned to be an attraction but over time it has grown in popularity among locals and thus attracting foreigners as well. Simply put “Hanoi street train” into Google Maps and it will take you there. For the old school people out there, it’s on either side of Tran Phu main Road in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
Here is a list of three of our favourite hotels in Vietnam:
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